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corroboree-equus_logoHere in the Netherlands we have been enjoying the most amazing summer with temperatures well into the twenties and even the lower thirties, making up for a long cold winter with snow on the ground way past when we would normally expect it. The silly season is upon us, which means that we have a bit more time to spend with our horses and to plan. It also seems to be an appropriate time to fill you in on the Corroboree Equus, our latest plans, how our horses are faring and unexpected developments on the Hempfling front.


Trip to Australia and New Zealand

It has been well over two years since Vicki and I left Australia for Europe with our mare, Anaïs, and our dog, Dubu, for the purposes of attending Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling’s one-year school. We left behind two retired geldings, Gulliver and Farinelli, who are being professionally looked after for us on a magnificent property in south-east Queensland. We feel that it is time for us to return to Australia and see for ourselves how they are faring and to visit our friends around the country and in New Zealand at the same time. We will be spending a month visiting both countries from the last week of September.

Gulliver (24) and Farinelli (20) - our geldings in SE Queensland, Australia

Gulliver (24) and Farinelli (20) – our geldings in SE Queensland, Australia

Here in Europe what passes for our leaders are hell-bent on sending huge swathes of ordinary people back into Third World conditions, especially in southern Europe, as they seek to make them pay for the past mistakes of big business and corrupt politicians, and to make European multinationals more competitive with the emerging economies of Asia, Africa and Latin America. As a result Europe is locked in a deepening recession in most parts of the continent, which is having a major impact on entire industries, including ours (translation). We are currently facing the challenge of reinventing ourselves and our trip to Australia will help us to decide whether that should occur there or here in Europe.


Corroboree Equus

As mentioned in my post of the same name on 26 May 2013, the inaugural Corroboree Equus will be held in Tallangatta, Victoria, Australia. If you are committed to a new way of being with horses, one in which the horse is invited to be a willing partner rather than merely an instrument for the achievement of a human’s equestrian aspirations or an accessory to a human ego, you are welcome to join many others like you to share experiences, learn from each other and have fun together. If you’re expecting to be hit with an attendance fee, relax. There is none. Yep, it’s absolutely free of charge.

Horses and Humans - towards the Corroboree Equus

Horses and Humans – towards the Corroboree Equus

Vicki and I will be attending the Corroboree Equus and look forward to meeting any of our readers who will be there. If you choose to bring your horse along, we look forward to meeting your equine friend as well. By all accounts it promises to be a great event in a relaxed environment within a beautiful part of the country. So if you can make it, we look forward to getting together with you and other like-minded spirits. You can obtain more information about the Corroboree Equus here.


A new equine home

In my post of 14 May (Our Horses Banished by the Ice Queen) I mentioned that our horses had been thrown out of their former livery yard and that we had found temporary accommodation for them elsewhere. For several weeks they shared a paddock and two stables on a property in the process of being sold not too far from where we live. It was good to be responsible for every aspect of our horses’ wellbeing again. Unfortunately, it was not sustainable for a number of reasons, our travels being one of them.

Anaiis and Pip grazing at their new home

Anaiis and Pip grazing at their new home

Fortunately, we managed to find permanent accommodation for Anaïs and Pip, when two places became available at a livery yard about a twelve-minute drive from where we live. Again we were lucky to find a facility within a few hundred metres of one of the most beautiful forests I have ever had the good fortune to walk in here in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, there is downside to the warmer temperatures of summer in the form of swarms of horse flies which render it almost impossible to do much outside with our horses, let alone go for walks in the forest with them. It is actually so bad that the horses have to be stabled during the day and spend the nights out in the field. Fortunately, there is an upside to this. The stables are cool during the heat of the day and the nights are free of horse flies.


Body balancing with Pip

Pip and I are making visible progress with our body balancing exercises. I am finding that my daily Tai Chi sessions are helping me to move and breathe in a more balanced and grounded way not only during those sessions but in everyday activities, especially together with my mare. Nevertheless, there are still moments when I hang my head in shame, realising that I have been focusing so intently on completing an exercise properly, that I have ignored, if not hurt, the feelings of my equine friend. The boss mentality, I find, is so difficult to shake it. Admittedly though, it is occurring far less frequently than in the past.

And there is no reason for it either, because Pip is doing so well. She is carrying herself better and is far more balanced in her movement. Whereas she used to drag her inside right in the past, she is now beginning to step under. The change in her balance is also slowly starting to be reflected in her feet. I am beginning to notice that her right fore hoof is slowly displaying more concavity, although I feel that the overall change is going to require a good deal of time. In addition, the small hard muscles which she used to have in her neck and shoulders have become softer and longer, which means that she is finding it easier to flex.


Collection and riding

In fact, Pip is doing so well that I am now seriously starting to prepare her for riding. Vicki has been on her back on about four occasions now using a bareback pad, the first time that Pip has had anyone on her back in 15 months. For the moment we have simply been checking to see how Pip responds, getting her used to the feeling again, and helping her to learn a new way of carrying a human in the absence of a bit or any force by reproducing what we are doing on the ground on her back. Yesterday was major. You should have seen how she and Vicki were communicating with each other without a bit, without a saddle, and without any force whatsoever. Pip had a few minor misgivings in the beginning but now that she realises that force is no longer involved, she is beginning to relax and gain more confidence.

Vicki on Pip - the first time a human has been on her in 15 months

Vicki on Pip – the first time a human has been on her in 15 months

Now I am beginning to focus on teaching Pip how to collect herself on the ground. I am using a cordeo as a tool to ask her to lift the base of her neck without raising her head. Once this is established, I am hoping to help her bring her hind feet further under her. This should have the effect of shifting more of her weight to her hindquarters, which should theoretically make it easier for her to carry a rider. In addition, I am continuing to help Pip strengthen her abdominal muscles and hindquarters with various exercises. This should make it easier to achieve this shift in weight.


Talking to the animals

If you have ever felt that I am losing the plot, as one former friend has, here is a chance for you to gather evidence to the effect that this has really occurred. I talk to the animals. But wait, there is more: they are responding to it. The first time I noticed it was a good few months ago when I was lungeing  Anaïs over some cavalletti. On the right she was fine but on the left she was hesitant. So I spoke to her and told her that she could ignore the cavalletti if she wanted to and just pass in front of it but, if she felt confident enough, she could go ahead and do it. She took me at my word, passed on the inner side twice and then, without me asking for it, moved out and took the cavalletti on the third pass.

Pip teaching me how to be nice to horses

Pip teaching me how to be nice to horses

Although I was quite amazed at the time, I let it pass and did not pursue a similar approach with Pip. Until a few weeks ago, that is, when while waiting for Vicki and Anaïs to finish their lesson, I started scratching Pip and asked her to move her body, so that my hand was over the areas that she wanted me to address. She did. Her lower neck and shoulders on both sides: get busy, Andrew, so I did. she loved it, raising her head and pressing her muzzle into a point extruding over her lower lip. Now we start off every session with scratching and she is a different horse as a result. Not content to let a good thing slide, I decided to start explaining each exercise to Pip before we tried it. Shoulder-in at the trot was a prime example. I used my hand to show her the shape we were aiming for, explained how we might want to try it, and mentioned that it could have major benefits for her physical and mental wellbeing. What does Pip do now? She actually starts to initiate some of the action. Yesterday, for instance, she decided that it was time to trot and pick up some speed before moving into shoulder-in, so yours truly found himself trying to keep up with his horse. So much for being the great leader.


Message from Hempfling students

Some of you may have read a message sent to our readers and ourselves by Nanda and Karina, two of the seven students (originally 10) remaining in Hempfling’s one-year school. If you have not, you can read it below my post, Horses, Humans, Hempfling and How to Get Started . It appears that after close to two years Hempfling’s first full one-year school is finally drawing to a close with possibly as many as seven of the ten students who originally started out at the beginning of September 2011. Amongst other things, they conclude that Hempfling is ‘great teacher and coach and is that person that he is showing with the horses’.

Which leads me to ask: which horses? Jo’s stallion, Habanero, which Hempfling effectively took over instead of helping his student become the horse’s friend and leader? Jasmijn’s three stallions, with whom she was dancing before she attended the one-year school and with whom she has danced as well since leaving his school prematurely (see my post entitled Hempfling’s Student: Casting off the Master’s Shadow?)? And what of Karina’s horses, in particular, Cody (see my post entitled Breaking the Cycle of Chaos)? I invited Nanda and Karina to share their experiences of the one year school with us by publishing their separate stories on our blog on condition that we could present them with questions about those experiences. Their reply has taken the form of a lengthy silence.

I, in particular, would have loved to have heard from Nanda how it was possible that she, an experienced horse person, could have grown to be afraid of little Cody. I would also have liked to have asked Karina, Cody’s owner, why she allowed him to be condemned to his fate in the presence of the great horse lover, Hempfling, and his one-year students. I would also have liked to have asked them why there was such a high drop-out rate (30%) for a course that was so expensive (EUR 84,000.00). In fact, I would have liked to have asked whether all of the disturbing things that I have personally heard from some of their fellow students is true or just the product of a nightmare.

Hempfling’s latest video: a serious message for anyone contemplating a horse


The master at work

Which is not to deny that Hempfling is doing great work in helping people from around the world find a new way of being with horses. In fact I would urge you to have a look at his Facebook page. What is exciting about what Hempfling is doing now is that he is actually working increasingly with ordinary horses (even mares, which represents a major breakthrough) and not just the ones that look good on video (for instance, horses with a Baroque frame, such as the conventionally trained Lipizzaner stallion, Ferdinand, and the Spanish PRE stallion, Habanero), that he is riding them and not just talking about it, and that he is doing all of this without using instruments of force. It is also good to see that Hempfling’s new centre has decent fencing for the horses, and to read that its new bistro is serving organic food.

Now I look forward to seeing and hearing Hempfling actually enjoying himself while he is working with the horses (no smile visible in any of the current photos), which may be evidence enough that the horses are enjoying their work with him if it ever happens. In addition, I look forward to seeing photographs and videos of Hempfling helping his students learn to work with horses as opposed to being little more than enthusiastic body awareness trainees and spectators who have come to pay homage to – and excessively high prices for the privilege of viewing – the master dancing with horses. And finally, I look forward to seeing Hempfling help people realise that the secret to his success with horses lies not in dominating them but in helping them to become willing partners by being the kind of human with horses whom they seek to be with.


At the back of our home in the spring - Enjoy!

At the back of our home in the spring – Enjoy!




9 Responses to “Corroboree Equus, Our Horses and Hempfling Students”

  1. Gary Whinn says:

    I only know the names Nanda and Karina through reading your blog but I agree it is a great pity that they have not felt able to answer your call to share their experiences of the One Year School. That would have been very useful and hopefully enlightening for anybody considering making such a large investment of time and money. Clearly, I cannot speak for them but putting myself in their shoes I guess it would take a lot of courage to give a truly honest appraisal of my experiences without being influenced by the fact that I have just spent 2 years of my life and the grand sum of EUR 84,000 and that investment may not have been all that I was expecting and hoping for. I would of course be tempted to overlook the negative bits and only accentuate the positives to justify, if only to myself, that it had all been worth it. In the end though if that balance of pros and cons was a bit weighted to the negative side I might conclude that silence is the best policy. Especially, (if I am reading between your lines correctly?) that one of those negatives was that I had come out of the whole experience minus my horse, who suffered a fate I would now rather not talk about publicly, thank you very much. Silence sometimes does indeed speak volumes – the opportunity to break that silence and correct wrong assumptions is of course a door that is always open. Cue Nanda and Karina…….

    I’m somewhat short of time at the moment so I will leave it there and comment on the rest of the blog when I get chance – wonderful to see the progress you and Vicki are making with Pip! And your “back garden” is truly a picture.
    Kindest Regards

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Gary

      There are indeed times when silence does speak. Here is another possible take on this from Eckhart Tolle: ‘stillness speaks’!

      Glad you enjoyed the pic of the ‘back garden’. If you ever get round to our neck of the woods, why not drop in and enjoy the view with us?

      Be well!

  2. Dear Andrew,

    DUBU – beautiful friend – may his soul rest in peace

    An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backwards.
    When life is dragging you back with difficulties it means it is going to lanch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming. Nancy Levin @@@

    Though it might be difficult to achieve, it sometimes is the only way possible to get out of one’s misery.

    Wishing you all the best with the @@challenge of reinventing ourselves@@ – I would not be surprised if we will welcome you back – Europe is the place where it is all happening!

    Vicky on Pip – nice energy – both horse and rider – nice topline horse …

    If you have ever felt that I am losing the plot, as one former friend has, here is a chance for you to gather evidence to the effect that this has really occurred. I talk to the animals. But wait, there is more: they are responding to it.@@@

    Never had the feeling that you were losing anything – well perhaps a lot of money but you sorted that out very effectively 🙂 🙂 – you finally discovered the plot – it took some time but then better some time than never at all – don’t you agree??

    She actually starts to initiate some of the action.@@@

    That is the world of ‘wonders’ you, as I can read, have finally entered – well well my friend – I am very happy for you, Andrew – beware that you might have to do some conscious extra breathing exercises here and there for you to stay connected – but your horse will know before you do so if you continue not only talking but even more so listening to her there is no need for a disconnection to happen, is there ….

    Hempfling students@@@

    There is a lot Andrew, you wish to understand – WHY?? – perhaps that is an even more interesting question for you to find an answer to – if you have found your answer to that question “WHY?’ there will be no need anymore for all the other questions to be asked -I think …

    Ordinary horses@@@

    I like this and I do not like this – I am sure you do not wish to put a label on any horse – and I am also 100% sure that you think of and talk about any horse as a ‘special being’ – knowing the ordeals the animal has to go through and goes through willingly to get human on a level of greater awareness ….

    It is also good to see that Hempfling’s new centre has decent fencing for the horses @@@

    This makes me smile and at the same time a feeling of sadness surfaces – how about all this talk about ‘freedom for the horse’…

    Or am I being too serious here, and is this your kind of ‘tongue in cheek’ humor….:-)

    Now I look forward to seeing and hearing Hempfling actually enjoying himself while he is working with the horses (no smile visible in any of the current photos), which may be evidence enough that the horses are enjoying their work with him if it ever happens@@@

    Of course I had a ‘look’ at one of his latest video clips – how could I not do that with my ability to ‘read the energy’ – the nice thing was that this time I could not detect ‘out-of-balance-energy-fields’ – nor with KFH nor with the horse – in my feeling this means that horse and human are enjoying the interaction very much – it could also mean and certainly at the moment the film was shot that a shift has taken place – when I read the entry on his FBpage he has written himself that feeling gets even stronger – so who knows – time will tell – and so your wishes, Andrew, @@@In addition, I look forward to seeing photographs and videos of Hempfling helping his students learn to work with horses @@@ might be fulfilled sooner than you expected ……

    I love the picture of the view into the garden from your home in the spring – thank you for sharing – that alone could be enough reason to decide to settle in Europe – I think 🙂 …

    Warmly to all of you

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Geerteke

      You are delightfully mischievous in keeping me on my toes again.

      Actually, the reinvention exercise is turning out to be a wonderful opportunity for creativity. The arrow has long left the bow and its target is everywhere and nowhere but always excitingly now.

      It is inspiring to suddenly experience such a qualitatively different relationship with Pip on all fronts. It is even more inspiring to realise that it spontaneously emerged from a moment of just hanging out together.

      Re your comment, ‘There is a lot Andrew, you wish to understand – WHY?? – perhaps that is an even more interesting question for you to find an answer to – if you have found your answer to that question “WHY?’ there will be no need anymore for all the other questions to be asked -I think …’: I already know the answers to the questions that I have asked. The ‘Why?’ is also a question to which I have the answer. Stillness speaks. So does silence. Sometimes they have different things to say.

      When Hempfling becomes as ordinary a human in his dealings with his fellow humans – just like the rest of us are seeking to be – as his new horses are ordinary, he will become an even greater beacon of hope for horses and humans than he currently makes believe he is, for it is through the ordinary that we are all capable of being special in so many uniquely different ways if we put our energy to it. May all of us find the strength and joy to rise to the challenge which he exemplifies (such is the quality of fame).

      If you are ever in the south, perhaps you would like to come and view that garden with us?

      Be well!

      • Dear Andrew,

        Well, do let me know what your and Vicky’s decision will be – (re)turning to down under and (re)settle there or (re)turning to Europe and continue your life here and I shall when in your neighborhood try and get in touch with you and Vicky ..

        By the way I did not receive your response via my mailbox – I just happened to check your blog and noticed that you had commented on all the entries – don’t know if that means it is just me that didn’t receive your comment or perhaps it applies to all 4 …

        Take care and if I do not hear from you before I wish you and Vicky a really good trip to and stay in Australia and New Zealand.


  3. Cyndi says:

    Ah, Andrew, when I saw that there was a new blog entry I made myself a hot drink and sat down to read it. Very well written, as usual. I really do appreciate your honesty and openness. You tell it like it is in the moment, expressing things that many people think about but are too ‘afraid’ to say. Thank you!

    I hope you enjoy your trip back to Australia and NZ!! You’ll be there for the warmer months, won’t you? Great timing! I hope you enjoy reconnecting with friends, both two-legged and four!

    I hadn’t seen the new KFH video yet. To be honest, I would like to see something new in his videos. The words are new, but the clips that flash across the screen are the same recycled ones. They show what he is teaching, and that is good and well, but doesn’t he have any new clips of horses he’s working with, or students he’s working with? Just my opinion 🙂

    So happy to hear about the discoveries you’ve made with talking to the horses! And the improvements you are seeing are great!

    I know what you mean about horse flies!! I moved my mare to a new barn at the end of May and was so excited about the possibilities at the new barn, the main one being that there were other people there who just wanted to enjoy being with their horses. What proved to be reality was that I hardly ever saw anyone when I was there, no matter what time I went to the barn 🙁 And the horse flies were horrendous!!! In the five years that I’ve had my mare, this was the first time I was unable to do anything with her outside during the day (realized that the marshy ravine on the property was the perfect breeding ground for horse flies). The horses have an empty barn that they can enter whenever they want, and they were spending all day in there, escaping the heat and the flies. Unfortunately, the floor of the barn is bare concrete, and my mare was not doing well standing on the concrete all day. She developed back pain and moved around as though she was laminitic. I moved her to another barn a little over a week ago and the change in her is short of miraculous!! She is happy to see me, has the spark back in her eye, is willing to learn, and there is not a horse fly in sight! I don’t know why there are no horse flies (just stable flies), but I am not going to complain!! An example of how well she is liking her new barn is that today I took her for a walk down the road (it’s a quiet country road) for the very first time and she happily walked alongside me as though she’d walked the road a thousand times. Even with her two friend whinnying to her, she didn’t call back or pay them any attention at all, she just calmly walked alongside me without any hesitation. I hope that Pip and Anaiis are happy at their new livery, and that you are soon able to get out and walk those trails with them!!


    • Andrew says:

      Dear Cyndi

      Yes, we are so looking forward to seeing our horses and friends again. It will be spring when we are there. A sign of new growth perhaps?

      Perhaps too Hempfling will release some new videos in the autumn. I would imagine that he is currently very busy with his various courses which, if I remember correctly, are scheduled to finish towards the end of September.

      Sorry to hear about your horse fly nightmare. I have yet to discover what useful purpose those creatures serve on this earth. Perhaps they are here simply to test us.

      The nights are cooling down over here and we are noticing a fall-off in the numbers of horse flies as a result. It should not be too long now before we will be out and about in the forest again.

      If you ever feel that you would like to share some of your experiences with your mare with the rest of us, please feel free to do so. Incidentally, what is her name and what is she like? Oops, there I go again….

      Be well!

  4. Always interesting to read your blog, Andrew, and to reflect on the intriguing points you raise such as not being able to interact very much with horses in extreme conditions. And so we had a sudden drop in temperature accompanied by a light cool breeze the other day and what a pleasure to see the horses kicking up their hooves and playing joyfully together. It felt like an invitation to join in again:-)

    Looking forward to reading more of your adventure and return ‘down under’.

    Thanks as ever for making your experience so readily available to us


    • Andrew says:

      Dear Ian

      Good to hear that your equine mob are out there having fun in your very special piece of paradise. Hopefully you and your family are too.

      And in that light cool breeze the other day, when you felt that the horses were inviting you to join them again, did you?

      Be well!